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NBA’s condensed schedule could decide whether Pelicans or Spurs make play-in tournament

The odds obviously aren’t great for New Orleans, but there’s no team playing more games in the second half or finishing with a scarier murderers’ row than San Antonio

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San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NBA. Each week, we send out questions to the most plugged in New Orleans Pelicans fans, and fans across the country. Sign up here to join Reacts.

New Orleans, like every other team in the league, is working through a non-stop schedule. With the end of the regular season set for May 16 and a fair amount of games still undecided, the NBA is forcing teams to cross the finish line quickly.

Starting with tomorrow’s contest against the 76ers, the Pelicans will wrap up this regular campaign with six games in 10 days, including an arduous five-game road trip that starts in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center and concludes in San Francisco’s Chase Arena.

Every remaining New Orleans’ opponent is positioned to make the postseason, either soon going straight to the playoffs or heading first to the gauntlet and hoping to survive the play-in tournament.

Trailing the Grizzlies by 3.5 games, the Warriors, 3.0 games, and the Spurs, 1.5 games, the Pelicans have to treat every remaining contest as a must-win. They’ll likely need to pile up a good amount of victories and hope that at least one of the teams directly above them in the standings sputters down the stretch.

The best odds lie with catching San Antonio. The Spurs are mired in a 5-game losing streak and their closing schedule is one of the toughest in the entire league.

Although they have a 1.5 game lead over the Pelicans and currently occupy the final play-in spot, San Antonio’s odds of making the playoffs are worse than New Orleans. Before today’s NBA slate of games, ESPN’s BPI Playoff Odds list the Pelicans with a 6.5% chance to get to the 2020-21 playoffs. The Spurs, 5.8%.

For inquiring minds, ESPN’s projection system is (not surprisingly) much higher on the Warriors (68.4%) and Grizzlies (29.1%).

While strength of schedule should be a huge factor, it’ll be interesting to watch if the most grueling NBA schedule ultimately determines the final standings.

Needing to make up five COVID-19 related postponements, the Spurs are approaching the end of 40 games in 68 days, tying the Grizzlies for the most in the second half of the 2020-21 schedule. San Antonio was asked to deal with a total of 11 back-to-backs and were never given more than a single day’s rest by the schedule makers.

That’s beyond rough.

No wonder, more than two-thirds of fans around the NBA whose favorite teams are also likely suffering through some type of hardship think the league condensed the schedule too much according to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey,.

One major reason it’s believed the league was so adamant on finishing this early is because of the expected 2021 Olympics this summer. However, only 44 percent of fans believe that’s a worthy reason for playing games at this pace.

2020-21 MVP Race

While the schedule is difficult for everyone, some teams are having more success than others. That’s in large part due to the success of star players around the league. This year’s MVP race has seen a changing group of players from start to finish.

As the season nears its end, though, one player has emerged as the front runner for the award. 61 percent of fans nationally think Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokić is the league’s MVP. Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul was the next closest with 17 percent.

While Jokić appears to be the clear MVP, that doesn’t mean he’s considered the best player in the game right now. That title, according to fans, still goes to Lakers superstar LeBron James.

Paul’s re-emergence with the Suns has been a game-changer. The point guard was picked as the player who has made the biggest difference on their new team, far surpassing Brooklyn’s James Harden.

To vote in the Reacts surveys and have your voice heard each week, sign up here.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.